The Board of Directors for Medical Center Hospital (MCH) in Odessa voted Monday to adopt a vaccine mandate policy for all hospital employees unless the employee submits an application for medical or religious exemption by Monday, November 22. 

The policy was forced upon the hospital by an executive order from the Biden Administration, which threatened to revoke Medicare and Medicaid funding to the hospital unless the board adopted the policy. 

According to hospital officials, the Biden Administration’s threat would have translated into the loss of roughly $200 million annually and would have caused a medical crisis of unpreceded proportion on top of the COVID-19 crisis, as patients would have been denied funding for health care and treatment. 

“We have been in the middle of the worst health care crisis we have ever seen, and this Biden Administration mandate is making it harder to provide healthcare to those who need it, putting hospitals in a bad spot,” MCH CEO Russell Tippin told Odessa Headlines

According to Tippin, the policy requires employees to submit either a waiver for medical or religious exemption by Monday, November 22 or be vaccinated by December 5 to comply with the Biden Administration’s threat to revoke federal healthcare funds. 

A subcommittee composed of Tippin, the hospital attorney, the chief nursing officer, the hospital’s clergy, and two medical staffers will review all the religious exemption applications over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Tippin says employees need to be complete in filling out their religious exemption paperwork. 

The religious exemption paperwork requires employees to describe in detail the nature of their religious objection, how long they have held the belief, whether their belief applies to only the COVID-19 vaccine or other vaccines, and whether they have ever been vaccinated in the past. 

The mandate policy was adopted by a 4-3 vote of the board of directors on Monday, with board President Bryn Dodd, and district representatives Kathy Rhodes and Wallace Dunn being the three dissenting votes. 

“I believe the constitution supersedes the administration’s so-called mandate, and this policy,” board member Kathy Rhodes told Odessa Headlines, explaining why she voted against and opposes vaccine mandates. 

“When I was elected by the people I serve, I swore an oath to defend the constitution, and I believe the constitution protects our right against such overreach. I will fight it.” 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened on the issue, filing a federal lawsuit against the Biden Administration over the vaccine mandate on healthcare workers, and is asking the courts to block the mandate. 

Paxton’s office issued a statement on filing the lawsuit seeking to block the latest mandate, saying, “[a]t a time when we need healthcare workers more than ever before, amid a harrowing worker shortage, the Biden Administration has prioritized this unlawful vaccine mandate over the healthcare of all Americans.”  

According to Tippin, the policy adopted by the hospital will be suspended if Paxton prevails in court, pending a final ruling by the courts. 

Paxton has been part of a legal effort along with the Texas Public Policy Foundation in successfully challenging the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates so far, with the 5th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has granted multiple stays against vaccine mandates, blocking one imposed through OSHA on private businesses with over 100 employees – citing gross constitutional overreach. 

While the case makes its way through the courts, Tippin says that the hospital will continue to collect data necessary to comply with the mandate should the ruling not be favorable. 

Until then, he urges employees who have a religious objection to get their waivers turned in before the Monday deadline, and to complete their applications in as much detail as possible. 

Matt Stringer is a journalist from Odessa, Texas.